How to speak well?

We have thought long and hard about this question. Mainly because it underpins everything we do here at Get Sandwich.

Learning to speak well is difficult because it requires a lot of the right kind of practice. There is usually a lot of theory on how to speak well, like what to do to structure an informational talk or persuasive talk, but not enough examples to put them in context (like when you are selling, or you are teaching a group of teenagers), and certainly people don’t practice enough before they present.
When we ask people why they want to improve their speaking, the common answers are: “I want to be more confident”, or “I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to present at work”. These “goals”, although good starting positions, should go several steps further to be useful.

For example, in your personal life, if you want to be more confident in social gatherings, it would make sense to train yourself on being able to talk about the newspaper headlines of the day for about two minutes, just enough to break the ice with your acquaintances that day.

If you are aiming to present at work, it will make sense to think about how long is the usual presentation. If it’s 10 minutes, then that’s great. You have a format where you can train your talk.

With that in mind, we’d like to introduce you to our framework we use internally, here at Get Sandwich. It’s easy to remember because it’s called RITE. You know, the RITE of passage, or the RITE way. RITE stands for:

  • Record every talk. Never waste your one-off talks. Mobile phone storage is so cheap these days, there is no reason not to. Recording yourself allows you to have an objective view of how you currently speak.
  • Identify your audience. Ask what is the number one place you’d like to speak better? Is it at work? Is it for a conference? Figure out how your talk should help the audience best by deciding on the appropriate content, style and format.
  • Train every day. Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Do one thing that scares you every day.”, If speaking is your kryptonite, train by recording yourself every day. If not, still do it anyway to create a good speaking habit.
  • Evaluate by getting feedback. This is usually the hardest part, but we’ve built Get Sandwich for you to do this. Upload your recording and share it with your trusty friends to get some quick feedback on what to do next. Getting quality feedback is the fastest way to improve your speaking.

I’ll give you an example of how I do this myself.

I’ve booked my next Toastmasters speech in September, and I’m anxious about it, so I’ve started practising by answering a two-minutes question of “What’s the one thing people in Toastmasters should know to make their lives better?”. Toastmasters is a public speaking meetup. Its audience comes from many disciplines so I cannot have any jargons in my speech. I also know the format of the talk, it’s 7 minutes max, with minimal slides.

When I have a good idea of what I should talk about, I will record a 7-minute talk, and ask for feedback from others to improve the quality of my rehearsals.

The steps here are important, especially number #1: Record every talk. In our experience, there is a huge improvement curve observed simply by recording your talks, even before identifying the audience.

It’s good to have a baseline of how you speak normally by re-watching yourself. Specifically your pace, your natural facial expressions and your tone of voice. Without the recording, it’s very difficult to pick the next thing to improve. It could be the structure of your message needs more clarity, or it could well be increasing the articulation of your words. So that it’s easier to digest.

We build Get Sandwich to help you do these four steps because we believe it’s the be all and end all. You can speak better, by speaking more. Not by writing more, nor by learning better grammar. Every single improvement you take should stem from the evaluation you get on the recorded talks you have done; otherwise, it’ll be a premature optimisation. Taken from computer science, premature optimisation means that you are fixing aspects of your speaking that may not matter as much; as a result, you are missing out on the biggest thing you can do to get better fast.

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